A significant memory involving color for artist Katherine Kadish was from a time when there was barely any color at all.

A significant memory involving color for artist Katherine Kadish was from a time when there was barely any color at all.

In 1986 and 1987, she lived in a Chinese village that was cleaning the shards of revolution.

“In China, at that point,” she recalled, “it seemed like there was no color. There was dust everywhere. It wasn’t gray, just kind of sandy. That was the general appearance. I couldn’t stand it. I really felt the lack of color. Color really affects one’s moods, although people don’t always necessarily know it.”

To quench her visual thirst, Kadish began drawing a pastel piece based on the gardens at England’s Hampton Court Palace.

“It was the color and the shapes and the textures that were the motivating things,” she said. “It really made a difference in my psyche.”

There were other visual influences from her time in China that inspired Kadish, like the unusual color combinations (think mint green with a rust-hued trim) the people used as they started to restore damaged temples, but by that point color was already her old friend.

“Since my first day in art school,” Kadish said, “I loved artists who really played with color … I like the Fauve painters. I know my work has been influenced by them.”

Fauvists like Andre Derain and Henri Matisse unabashedly used bold colors and earned plenty of disdain from stodgy Realists when they painted, for example, hot pink trees.

Kadish, who now lives in Yellow Springs, said her first awareness that she wanted to study “color acting on color” was during her early 1980s series of paintings of swimmers.

“I was watching the color as opposed to the form,” she said. “This is not a new idea. Matisse used green on [a painting of] his wife’s face. I like that, trying to get the sense of something but not literally. … I had done a painting where I was interested in shape and dark and light. The color broke through and had a life of its own.”

Kadish has lovingly studied that life throughout her own.

See about 20 of her monotypes and paintings at the OSU Faculty Club.

Her work casts a color spell, but be on the lookout for other metaphors in both subject (the zinnias series began after Kadish’s close friend died) and shape (the framing of the triptychs mimic the form of kimonos).